Table of Contents
DoJ and US Army Facilities
Confinement and Ethnicity:
An Overview of World War II
Japanese American Relocation Sites
by J. Burton, M. Farrell, F. Lord, and R. Lord
Chapter 16 (continued)
Puyallup Assembly Center, Washington
Used from April 28 to September 12, 1942, the Puyallup Assembly Center
was located in a small rural community about 35 miles south of Seattle.
Also known as "Camp Harmony," the assembly center was built on the
grounds and surrounding acres of the Western Washington State
Fairgrounds. In addition to the usual stables, racetrack, and other
buildings common at the other assembly centers, there was a
rollercoaster (Figure 16.30). The assembly center housed a total of
7,628 Japanese American evacuees from Washington and Alaska, with a
maximum of 7,390 at a time.
Figure 16.30. Oblique aerial view of the Puyallup Assembly Center.
(from DeWitt 1943)
Construction of the assembly center, which would
effectively double the city's population, was reported as a major event
in the local paper:
"With a suddenness that marks all U.S. military moves
these days, construction of housing facilities on a scale large enough
to accommodate 8,000 Japanese was begun Saturday morning on the 40 acre
parking lot of the Western Washington Fair here, after an order for
building the project had been given out by the army officers just a few
hours previously. Approximately 1,000 men are now employed on the job,
which has been ordered completed within a month. Yesterday afternoon
more than 40 of the 15 by 40 foot buildings were nearly completed.
According to one source, approximately 165 such structures will be
needed to house evacuated Japanese who will be brought here from areas
designated by the army." (Puyallup Press, 4/3/42).
Another contemporary observer was not impressed with
the quality of construction or design:
"At the Puyallup fairgrounds ... all was a madhouse
of swarming carpenters. Boxlike buildings were being thrown together on
a large field that was formerly the parking lot. First the grass was
scraped off the surface of the field with steam shovels. Then 2 by 4s
were laid on the ground and planks nailed onto them. Then walls with one
tiny window every twenty feet in the rear wall, no windows on the side,
and a small door (no window in it) at the front. Over all a tarpaper
roof. There will be approximately 40 rows of these rabbit hutches. Four
hutches to a row, six rooms to a hutch. Each room is about 20 feet
square and separated from the next room by a partition that runs
up part way to the roof. Each room is to house a Japanese family. If
there is an average of 5 persons to a family, our arithmetic says 4800
people will be living in these boxes this summer." (Conard 1942).
Barracks filled all available space at the
fairgrounds, including beneath the grandstand, within the circle of the
racetrack, and in parking lots that extended into adjacent
neighborhoods. The assembly center was divided into four distinct and
separate areas designated Districts A-D. Movement between the districts,
which were divided by fences, was restricted. District A was the first
to open and housed about 2,000 people, District B housed 1,200, District
C housed 800, and District D, which included the racetrack,
administration, and bachelor's barracks, housed 3,000.
Figure 16.31. Sculpture at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
Figure 16.32. Commemorative plaque at the Puyallup Fairgrounds.
The assembly center site, still used as a fairgrounds,
is in continual use for exhibits, trade shows, and concerts, as well as
the annual Puyallup Fair. The fairground administration building is in
the same location as in the 1940s, but is apparently recent as the
current building is much larger and taller. Sculpture and two plaques in
a courtyard outside the fair administration building honor the evacuees
(Figures 16.31 and 16.32). The plaques, on a short concrete pedestal,
indicate the monument was dedicated by the governor and lists
contributors. The sculpture, by George Tsutakawa, is a steel cylinder
about 10-foot high which depicts several human figures. Within the
fairgrounds the barracks and horse racetrack are gone. The grandstand
burned in the 1970s, and was replaced by the present concrete and steel
grandstand. The infield now has a covered stage for shows and concerts
(Figures 16.33 and 16.34).
Figure 16.33. View from the grandstand of barracks at the Puyallup Assembly Center.
(National Archives photograph)
Figure 16.35. Cover of the Souvenier Edition of the Camp Harmony Newsletter.
(University of Washington, Special Collections)
Figure 16.34. View from the grandstand at the Puyallup Fairground today.
Other former barracks areas outside the fairgrounds, now parking lots,
show no evidence of their former use. The southern end of the original
site, where the assembly center hospital was located, is now completely
obliterated by State Highway 512. The grading to accommodate this
freeway-sized multi-lane road changed the topography completely. The
wooden frame roller coaster, along the western boundary of the
fairgrounds next to 5th Street, is still in use (Figures 16.35 and
Figure 16.36. Wooden frame roller coaster at the Puyallup Fairground today.